I’m currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for my first anthology, Monsters and Other Scary Shit. By the time you are reading this, I’m hoping we are funded, but since I’m writing this before the campaign even launches, it’s impossible to know.
I’m very proud of this anthology. It’s a beautiful 224-page hardcover anthology made for monster fans and made by creators who love monsters. I think this is the best monster anthology that’s ever been made, but you don’t have to take my word for it. If you love monsters, comics, and anthologies, go check out the book by clicking here.
Even though the book turned out amazing, there were still massive hiccups along the way, and I wanted to make sure nobody else ever had to deal with that again.
In conjunction with the book’s release, I am running a special series on my podcast, The Business of Art, where I interview some of the top anthology creators in the game; Dirk Manning from Nightmare World, Amanda Meadows from Devastator Quarterly, DJ Kirkbride who won an Eisner for Popgun, Brandon Perlow who was nominated for an Eisner for Watson and Holmes, Nicholas Doan and Gwendolyn Dreyer from Monsters Elementary, and Christine Hipp from the MANthology. You can subscribe to the show and get all the episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or by clicking here.
I wanted to find out why their anthologies were so successful, and how we can replicate that success in our own work. They gave me a massive amount of feedback, but there we three things that came up again and again; three things that completely correlated with my own anthology, and I want to share them with you here.
- 1. Make sure your anthology has a tight theme.
The first thing that came up over and over again was the importance of a theme. Christine Hipp ran three anthologies in the past year, and she told me how her last anthology, the MANthology, and its tight theme about flipping gender stereotypes in a funny way, was so much more effective than her first anthology, The Ladybug Anthology, where the contributors could do anything.
She talked about how the theme helped narrow the focus of the contributors AND helped define the market for the book. Dirk Manning and Amanda Meadows echoed these sentiments, saying that a tighter theme tells people exactly what to expect throughout the pages of the book, and makes it a much easier sale.
- 2. Organization is key.
It’s impossible to coordinate dozens of artists and stories without being organized. One of the amazing things about an anthology is that you have dozens of creators all working toward a similar goal. The negative of that is you have to wrangle everybody and make sure they are on task.
It’s easy to come up with an idea for an anthology and put out a submission call, but DJ Kirkbride cautioned creator to wait until they have a proper process in place.
Christine also talked about how you must, must, must have a google form for submissions, and a packet with information for your artists on how to draw the book so everything in consistent. I had a packet like this, and my artists still didn’t 100% follow the template I gave them.
- 3. It’s all about packaging
The final product is what sells books. It’s critical that everything works together to craft an amazing experience for the reader. Dirk Manning calls this “all killer. No filler”, when putting together a book. Anthologies are judged by their weakest stories, so make sure every story is amazing.
Brandon and Gwendolyn both brought up the cover design, and how important it is that they catch the eye and accurately represent the interior story. People do judge books by their cover.
A fantastic interior with a lame cover won’t make many sales, but a great cover with subpar stories is even worse. Make sure the entire package works together to create an experience for the reader. This is true for all books, but seems to be especially imperative for anthologies.
These are the top three tips I pulled out of my interviews with these creators, but every episode in our anthology series is full of tips, tricks, and hacks to make your anthology amazing.
In total, these six creatives gave over thirty amazing tips about how to make your anthology amazing. It all starts on 2/16 with Dirk Manning, so head on over to iTunes and subscribe now, or subscribe on our site by clicking here.
And if you love monsters, head on over to Kickstarter and check out my new book, Monsters and Other Scary Shit, where thirty different creative teams jam out about monsters for 224 amazing pages. Check it out now by clicking here.
Russell Nohelty is a writer, publisher, and consultant. He runs Wannabe Press, a small press dedicated to making weird books for weird people, and hosts The Business of Art podcast, which helps creatives build better businesses. He also loves monsters of all types, from Monsters, Inc to Hellraiser.